Aarogya Setu gave forecasts regarding 650 Covid-19 clusters
Health officials say the Aarogya Setu will help fill gaps in human resources to monitor the coronavirus outbreak.Updated: May 10, 2020 11:11 IST
The Aarogya Setu predicted 650 potential coronavirus disease (Covid-19) hotspots correctly and more than 300 others that could turn into one, the government’s advisory body Niti Aayog said in a statement, while adding that close to 100 million people have now registered on it.
The tool is meant to speed up tracing of contacts of an infected person so that they can be isolated before they spread the disease further, but has become controversial due to the amount of personal data – such as location details – it requires and possible vulnerabilities in its design and coding that could expose such information.
With the new details, the developers now suggest the analysis of the data could be helpful. “Using syndromic mapping and trace history of Covid-19 positive people combined with their movement patterns and exposure of different regions to Covid-19, the Aarogya Setu team has forecasted more than 650 hotspots across the country at sub-post office level, in addition to more than 300+ emerging hotspots which could have been missed otherwise,” the Niti Aayog said.
In Maharashtra, which is one of the worst-affected states, the app identified at least 60 hotspots across 18 districts. Officials in Maharashtra, however, said the application was more useful for individuals than the administration “because authorities already have this information with them”. “As such, it will be easier for individuals to find such hot spots to avoid further spread of the disease. In fact, this application will be more useful after the end of the lockdown,” said Pradeep Awate, Maharashtra’s state health surveillance officer.
“For the 130 hotspot predictions made by the app across India at the sub-post office level between April 13 and April 20, every forecasted hotspot has since been declared a real hotspot by the health ministry 3 to 17 days after it was first predicted. This ability to accurately forecast hotspots is a much-needed breakthrough, first of its kind in the world which India will deploy as a powerful tool to fight the contagion and help the world do the same. Aarogya Setu is not just predicting hotspots, it is enabling prevention of hotspots,” said the Niti Aayog release.
HT could not verify these hotspots since the agency did not release a list of these locations.
Since its launch on April 2, the app has already seen 96 million registrations. It is now mandatory for people going to work during the lockdown period, which makes India the only democracy where the mobile phone software is compulsory in some form.
Health officials say the tool will help fill gaps in human resources to monitor the outbreak. “It is definitely an application for the future as far as disease surveillance is concerned because India is a huge country and it is practically not possible to cover the entire population over and over again manually. That’s when this kind of technology can be made use of. However, the only thing that needs to be considered is that it will be most effective when everyone has downloaded the application,” said Dr Sujeet K Singh, director, national centre for disease control.
Principal scientific advisor to the Prime Minister, Prof K VijayRaghavan, added: “The app allows consent-driven identification of individuals who were in proximity to those who are tested positive; amongst these there will be several who are eligible for tests. When these people were tested, several turned out to be positive.”
Aarogya Setu gets real-time testing alerts on Covid-19 positives from across India. Of the 12,500 users with the app installed who tested positive so far, Bluetooth-based interaction data led to more than 60,000 people being assessed and alerted as at various degrees of risk and, advised accordingly whether to self-isolate, quarantine or go for a test. Of the 8,500 tested from the set of people assessed as high-risk (and recommended to be tested), around 23% tested positive so far, the developers said.
“While this is a valuable consequence of using the app, there is another consequence that is being used and is also very valuable. By mapping symptoms and trace history of Covid-19 positive people, and combining with their movement patterns, the team also studied these in relation to available exposure of different regions to Covid-19. This analysis showed an ability to forecast hotspots a short while in advance of their becoming so. Many of these hotspots were already on the health ministry’s radar but a substantial number were novel. This information, when relayed to the health system, allows this additional information to be used in helping to prevent hotspots from maturing, along with other data available,” VijayRaghavan added.
So far, 69 million people have taken the app’s self-assessment test, with an adoption rate of about 71%, of which at least 3.4 million have self-declared themselves as unwell (showing one or more of the three symptoms).
A dedicated team of more than 70 doctors and healthcare workers have reached out to about 650,000 individuals with Covid-like symptoms and triaged their medical condition. More than 16,000 people have been administered follow-up tele-consultation by doctors, free of cost.